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There are two kinds of democracy. One is Islamic democracy and the other is Western democracy. Western democracy is not acceptable and applicable for Afghans because it is opposed to their religion and faith.

  • Male teacher, urban Kabul

[Democracy] is not a good system, it is an American system and we do not accept it. If we do then Islam and non-Islam will be mixed up, God help us...Foreigners try to harm Islam but we don’t want this, we want freedom which is not against Islam.

  • Male taxi driver, urban Ghazni

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. We want Islamic democracy here. We don’t accept Western democracy. We just want to have Islamic democracy.

  • Female carpet weaver, semi-urban Nangarhar

This distinction was made in provinces as diverse as Balkh, Kabul, Nangarhar and Ghazni, suggesting that the varying levels of security in these provinces and their demographic differences did not alter the fact that many people strongly believed in the outright opposition between Western and Islamic democracy. This is partly the result of the synonymous use of the words “democracy” and “azadi” (freedom), where Western democracy was often described as the implementation of unlimited freedom in which people’s behaviour was not confined to any particular social norm or rule. Indeed, it was often portrayed as an excuse used to condone otherwise unacceptable behaviour, along the lines of “who cares? It’s a democracy.”56

Democracy means freedom but this freedom means that a person should do whatever his mind tells him to do. But if this democracy is not against Islamic rules, and stays within the limits of Islam and doesn’t break Afghan rules and culture, then it is acceptable.

  • Male teacher, urban Ghazni

56

This was a finding apparent in the first phase of research

Larson,

“Toward

an

Afghan

Democracy,”

9-10)

that

emerged

(See even

more strongly during the second phase. The concern freedom” is not new—indeed, as John Keane explains, by the Greeks and also by Islamic philosopher Nasr 10th century AD. Keane, Life and Death, 145.

with “excessive it was expressed al-Farabi in the

Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan

Western countries are showing us that in democracy you can do whatever you want. And we should have democracy here, but we Muslims should manage it. The new democracy which has been recommended for us is not good and it is against our religious and cultural rules. We should not break these rules in the name of democracy.

  • Housewife, urban Ghazni

Democracy is freedom of speech. If you stay naked or clothed, it is freedom. We do not support this kind of democracy. We want Islamic democracy. Women should work in accordance with Islamic law and in hijab [head covering]. They can then work in government office to defend their rights.

  • Male former government official,

semi-urban Nangarhar

The concept of what a democracy within an “Islamic framework” would look like from an Afghan perspective remains ambiguous, and there is no existing political debate on the content of such a system

Democracy is good for Afghanistan but only if it is within the charchaokat-i-Islam and in the light of the Hadith [sayings of the Prophet Muhammad]. For example, I am a Muslim and I cannot forsake Islam.

  • Male head of NSP shura, rural Nangarhar

When pushed further, respondents tended to emphasise that a certain kind of freedom was acceptable, however, as long as it was “freedom within an Islamic framework.” This framework— charchaokat, in Dari literally meaning “four fixed edges”—seemed to symbolise vividly a concept of limitation or boundary outside of which were the aspects of Western democracy considered unacceptable inAfghanistan.Though this limitation was widely talked about, it was rarely described in detail.57 Indeed, the concept of what this kind

57

See Larson, “Toward an Afghan Democracy,” 11-12.

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